Israel Gives Local Support Staff in Missions Abroad State Employees Status Following Protest

After hundreds of employees in Israel's missions around the world protested their terms of employment, the cabinet approved their new status

The Israeli Embassy in Washington, September 30, 2016.
Gary Cameron / REUTERS

Local support staff in Israeli missions overseas will not be considered as state employees, the cabinet decided Sunday, approving the application of the law regulating state employees to Israeli citizens.

In 2016, Israel employed 3,286 local employees overseas, in addition to 726 representatives from the foreign ministry, the prime minister’s office, the ministries of economics, agriculture, tourism and more.
Locals provided secretarial services, as well as maintenance, security and consular services, in addition to jobs requiring local expertise that were attached to the regular diplomatic work carried out by Israeli missions. Half of these local residents had Israeli citizenship. Two years ago, an investigation by the State Comptroller found that these employees suffered discrimination relative to diplomats at the same mission, in terms of basic rights, wages, scope of contracts, requirements for obtaining these jobs, training and more.

In recent months these local employees have intensified their protests against the terms of their employment. Hundreds of employees around the world demonstrated, demanding that a promised reform which had been delayed due to budgetary constraints be implemented by the end of 2017. Protests took place in missions in New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Toronto, Bogota, Berlin, Munich, Paris, London, Rome Brussels, Tokyo, Chengdu and Tashkent. Employees had their pictures taken, holding signs saying “stop exploiting us”; “We demand fair wages” and “Zionist and poor.”

The committee of local employees informed the foreign ministry that they would refuse to sign contracts in 2018 until the issue was resolved. In an announcement to the press, the committee said that “the state has to meet its obligations to us. We don’t want to become rich, only to make a dignified living through our work and commitment to the state.”